Being a Background Actor for Central Casting
After a few months of living in LA, my boyfriend and I decided we wanted to join Central Casting to be background in shoots we wouldn’t normally get on as crew to observe, meet people, and make some side money. This video is all about the sign-up process and my first job for Central Casting.
For those that don't know, Central Casting is a background casting company in Los Angeles that helps productions of all kinds cast for their background actors AKA extras.
Signing Up for Central Casting
Central Casting used to have a crazy sign up process which meant you had to go to their office at 5 am and wait in line for hours to maybe get in and sign up. Now, they’ve implemented a scheduling system on their website, where you can sign up for a time to go in and be pretty much guaranteed in. But you have to register for a date as soon as they open it up for registration because the spots fill up fast. They only do new registrations 2-3 times a week, and they open up 48 hours in advance, so I set a timer at exactly 48 hours before the date to make sure I registered and had a spot.
When we got there, there were already about 30 people in line outside waiting for the doors to open. There are also a few vendors handing out flyers to the people in line trying to get them to sign up for acting classes, workshops, headshot sessions, etc. One person that stood out was a person handing out flyers for a free acting workshop presented by the Church of Scientology - so make sure you read the entire flyer before taking anyone up on their offer. Tiffany Haddish mentioned in her recent interview with David Letterman that she met a Scientologist at the Central Casting line and it went just as you might imagine.
Once the doors opened up, everyone files inside and fills out start paperwork and gets trained on what to expect and what to do when being cast for a shoot. Afterward, they take your headshot and you’re set to go. The entire process took about 3 hours.
My Experience Getting Casted
Soon after signing up, I received a text message from a Casting Director to see if I was available for a new show. After some back and forth, I was cast for the show for 2 days and I was sent the details.
With Central Casting, they text you a code and you have to call in their phone line and enter the code to receive your “details” which is a pre-recorded voice message which includes your call time. After listening to this message, you get another code that you enter into the Central Casting website that tells you more on the location, wardrobe, and expectations.
My details said I needed to bring 5 different outfits - all old/worn-looking clothes with white shoes and white socks. I haven’t worn a pair of white socks since possibly the 2nd grade and I definitely didn’t own a pair of white shoes. So I went on a quick shopping trip to get ready for the shoot the next day.
I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say which show I worked on, but I played a Prison Detainee and the set was at a real prison in California. During the night, there were actual inmates in the prison cells, but during the day the inmates were relocated for the show to film. I can say it was definitely apparent it was an operating prison - we found some make-shift weapons tucked in the bunks!
When I arrived to set, I reported to a trailer where I received my voucher. The voucher is very important because it contains all of your information in order to get paid for the day. You fill out the voucher and turn it into the wardrobe in order to get your wardrobe for the day. At the end of the day, once you change back into your own clothes, you return your borrowed wardrobe and they give you your voucher to turn into the set.
Once you get your wardrobe approved, you move onto hair and makeup. Since we were at the prison, hair and makeup just made sure our appearance resembled that of a detainee with no makeup or nail polish. After a bit of breakfast, we were shuttled to the main part of the prison where we would be filming.
When on set, there are a handful of set etiquette and rules you should know as an extra, so here’s a quick breakdown:
The 2nd or 3rd AD (Assistant Director) is the person who is managing the extras on set, telling them where to stand, walk, etc.
The 1st AD calls the actions on the set including “BACKGROUND” which means the background actors should start acting.
When you hear “Back to One” or “Reset” that means that all the actors and camera people need to go to the beginning marks of the scene because they are going to film the scene over again.
There’s generally a different crafty (snacks and drinks station) for the crew, so you should make sure to only be grabbing from the designated extras’ crafty.
Most sets are closed sets and do not allow filming or photography on set by non-official photographers - so it's best to not take photos of the set since most of the time it's under wraps and you could get into a lot of trouble by doing that.
Lastly, there’s often a waiting period between scenes, so be prepared with a book or phone charger to help pass the time.
Does Central Casting Work?
Since doing this show, I haven’t been cast on any other shows with Central Casting. I spoke to a few other women on the show and said that it’s rare to be directly messaged by a Casting Director and that most jobs they get are from their Background Acting Management. They suggested getting an agent or manager since jobs tend to fill up quickly when they are posted online and unless you’re always checking it, it’s unlikely you’ll submit quick enough to get cast.
Both my boyfriend and I have been messaged by Casting Directors on occasion, but even though we reply that we are available for the shoot, most of the time we never hear back or are turned down afterward.
Since signing up with Central Casting, I’ve been on their site sparingly and haven’t devoted a lot of time on trying to get cast. But I will definitely try to keep up with the site as my availability shifts. I love that Central Casting has streamlined their sign up process and is no longer a crazy cattle-call as other people explained it before. I love that Central Casting doesn’t charge you to have a profile with them, unlike other services like Backstage or LA Casting. I’ve recently started on account with LA Casting and will be doing a review on that service in a few months since it is a lot different than Central Casting.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience I had on my first background job with Central and am definitely looking forward to the next. It was fun to see such a large LA set operate and work with top-notch filmmakers and actors.